Double Jeopardy (review)

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Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse

If I shout “Crap!” at an Ashley Judd movie, and no one cares, does it make a sound? No, wait: If Ashley Judd craps in the woods and everyone’s there to see, is it a crime?

Sometimes murder isn’t a crime, the producers of Double Jeopardy would like you to think. But bad movies almost always are. No matter how well they do at the box office.
Sweet and innocent Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd: Simon Birch, A Time to Kill, who obviously got lucky with this surprise hit, even if her character didn’t) is framed for the supposed murder of her rich-bastard husband, Nick (Bruce Greenwood: The Sweet Hereafter, who’s kinda hot, even if his character isn’t). Even though we don’t get to see Nick staging the bloody scene on the couple’s beautiful sailboat out in the beautiful Pacific off the beautiful Pacific Northwest coast, we know that Libby is innocent, because she’s beautiful and sweet and innocent and Ashley Judd — oh, and also because all she cares about in this whole wide world is her tow-headed little moppet of a son, and not the $2 million insurance policy on her husband. But — horrors — she, covered in blood, stumbles out onto the blood-drenched deck of the sailboat in the middle of night just in time for the Coast Guard the pull up and see her standing there agape, a honking huge — and blood-covered, natch — knife in her hand.

Where did all this blood come from? It would have to be Nick’s wouldn’t it, to stage a plausible murder scene, because of a little thing called forensics? Would a guy who’s lost this much blood be able to think straight enough to do much of anything? Maybe it was the filmmakers’ blood, and they were the ones getting lightheaded, hoping to foist off this ridiculous setup on audiences by playing on our sympathy for poor, poor Libby and our hatred for bad, bad Nick.

If you saw the theatrical trailer for Double Jeopardy, you’ve seen the whole movie, and you know that this is a beat-for-beat remake of The Fugitive, down to the casting of Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black, U.S. Marshals, who was obviously desperate, even if his character isn’t) as Travis Lehman, Libby’s parole officer. See, after spending six years in jail for Nick’s murder (only six?) — a horrifying experience during which she scrubbed bathrooms and cooked food, which is what most women not lucky enough to be able to afford maids and cooks do all the time anyway — she’s out and off to find Nick. Travis is compelled by the necessities of the script, and very little else, to go way above and beyond the call of duty when she jumps parole, following her halfway across the country and naturally becoming convinced of her innocence in the process.

This is the kind of movie that just keeps compounding the silliness, hoping that the supposedly feel-good girl-power tone will help you ignore how contrived and patently false the entire premise of the movie is. Not one but two legally trained characters — a former lawyer and a former law professor — assure Libby that the law that prevents people from being tried twice for the same crime — the concept of double jeopardy — means that since she was convicted of killing her husband on that boat, she can now walk up to the still-alive Nick and shoot him dead in broad daylight for full impunity. That would be a different crime, though, and double jeopardy wouldn’t apply. But who cares? Libby’s gonna get that no-good man o’ hers but good — this is the guy, after all, who forced her to clean toilets — and that’s all that matters.

With a single phone call to a different agent, Double Jeopardy could easily have been a Lifetime movie of the week starring Valerie Bertinelli, one it would have been easy to ignore. It’s a nice thought, anyway.

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